Tips for Spray Painting Walls and Ceilings

Updated on April 18, 2019
Matt G. profile image

Matt is a professional painter and freelance writer, sharing his knowledge, house-painting tips, and product reviews.

Spray Painting Walls with An Airless Sprayer

Spray painting walls and ceilings is a lot faster than using a brush and a roller to paint them. Using a sprayer to paint your walls also eliminates the task of having to climb up and down a ladder to cut-in corners with a brush, and a sprayer produces a smoother finish.

The two minor drawbacks of spraying paint indoors is over-spray and paint consumption. Spraying uses more paint, but the time you save using a sprayer is worth the extra paint expense if you want to get your painting project done faster. Spraying is your best option if you're faced with a whole-house painting project that must be finished in a short time frame.

The ideal scenario, using a sprayer indoors, is to spray the rooms before a move-in when the house is empty, but with careful masking, spray painting walls in an occupied home is as easy as working in an empty one. Masking doesn't take very long either, using the right tools.

The Best Sprayer for Spray Painting Indoors

A quality airless sprayer is all you need to spray paint the walls inside your home. Two good sprayer brands are Graco and Titan. I've mostly used Graco spray equipment, but Titan is good too. Both brands are usually available for rent at the paint store.

Rent an airless sprayer if you only plan to use it one time. Contractor-grade sprayers by Graco, or Titan, aren't cheap to buy, but major home improvement stores usually sell less expensive models by both brands, meant for the DIY homeowner. These are fine for occasional use.

I've used my Graco 495 Ultra Max airless sprayer for several years, and I use this sprayer for all of my interior and exterior spray painting. Less expensive Graco models, like the 395 and 390, are excellent sprayers if you need one for more than one project.

Masking for Interior Spray Painting

Before spraying paint inside a house, masking is necessary to protect surfaces not being spray painted. Windows and floors need to be covered very carefully. The best tool to use for masking is the 3M hand masker. Don't waste your time masking without one. Using a hand masker is a massive time saver when you need to cover multiple windows and walls.

What you're painting in a room will determine what needs to be masked. I'll explain a few different scenarios and the best way to mask them to make things easier.

Spray Painting Ceilings Only

If the walls are already painted, and you're only painting the ceiling, you'll have to cover them with plastic to keep over-spray off the paint. Masking walls is actually really easy, using the 3M hand masker I mentioned, equipped with painter's tape and 3M masking film. The best plastic length to use for walls is 99-inch, which is long enough to cover a typical eight foot wall. These rolls of plastic are sold on the Internet and some major home improvement stores.

Spray Painting Walls Only

When spraying walls only, you'll have to mask along the ceiling corners, so over-spray from the wall paint doesn't blow up onto the surface. This is a little more challenging, because you'll have to mask the ceiling upside down, but all you need for this is 12-inch masking paper, using a masker.

Paper is a lot easier to work with upside down on a ceiling. Only the corner portion of the ceilings needs to be covered, not the whole ceiling.

Spray Painting both the Walls and Ceiling

Spray the walls before the ceiling. Allow the wall paint to fully dry, cover the walls with tape and plastic, and spray the ceiling. Masking walls is a lot easier than masking a ceiling upside down, if you were to spray the ceiling before the walls.

What's the Best Tape for Interior Spray Painting?

The painter's tape you choose is very important. The best painter's tape to use for covering windows with plastic is blue tape. If you're covering floors beneath base board you're spraying, green Frog tape is great. Yellow Frog tape is excellent when taping over a delicate surface (expensive wallpaper), or a recently painted surface that might not be fully cured yet.

Using An Airless Sprayer Indoors

After the masking is done, you're ready to start spraying, but first make sure you're using the right tip size to get the job done faster. I recommend using a Graco sprayer, whether you rent or buy one. I've used them throughout my painting career and they're excellent. With Graco spray tips and tip guards, the RAC 5 (black) and RAC X (blue) are the two options available.

The RAC X (blue) tips and guards cost more money, but last longer in my experience. Another reason I like using the blue RAC X guards is being able to use the green FFLP (fine finish, low pressure) spray tips with them. You cannot use them with the RAC 5 tip guard.

Airless Spray Tip Sizing for Walls and Ceilings

Most spray tips for airless sprayers, regardless of the brand, include a three digit number. To determine the spray fan width of a tip, simply multiply the first digit by two. As an example, a 517 spray tip produces a 10-inch spray fan. The second and third digit refers to the orifice size of the tip. The larger the orifice, the greater the amount of atomized paint will come out.

A good tip size to use for spraying walls and ceilings with latex paint is 517. The 10-inch fan this tip produces covers large surfaces fast without throwing too much paint onto the drywall.

Use a Spray Gun Extension Wand

Using a spray gun extension, espeically for ceilings, really comes in handy. These screw onto your spray gun to make it easier to reach the ceiling. This also reduces a lot of over-spray because, at a closer range, more paint is being sprayed onto the ceiling than into the air. These also reduce fatigue when spraying walls because you won't have to bend down as much.

Back-rolling Walls While Spraying

The first coat of paint should be rolled as you're spraying the surface, especially when spraying over a slightly rough finish like flat paint on a ceiling. Rolling the first coat pushes the paint into the small pores and texturing of the existing coating.

The second coat doesn't have to be rolled if the first coat was sprayed and rolled on evenly, but sometimes not rolling the second coat leaves a rough texture on walls from over-spray settling onto the surface while spraying. Ceilings are usually fine only being rolled one time for the first coat.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2019 Matt G.


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